Why Is My Dog Reactive To Other Dogs

Aggression and/or reactivity toward other dogs is a typical trait that annoys dog owners. To gain control and train your dog to exercise self-discipline, at least when you’re around, you may need to work through this habit, which can be very difficult and time-consuming. When they see another dog, many dogs lose control. Even when the dog is far away, they will whine, bark, lunge, etc. Dogs may behave in this manner when they are excited, frustrated, afraid, in pain, or even when they are being aggressive. When our dog’s behavior is predictable, there is a significantly higher probability that it will improve. When resolving these problems, context is crucial, and pinpointing the causes of a dog’s reactions may call for the assistance of an expert. The majority of dogs can be trained to behave properly around other dogs. Some dogs’ behavior can be much improved, but they will always need to be watched over and controlled in all circumstances. We must always remember that while some dogs may learn to appreciate or at least accept other dogs, this is not likely to be the case with every dog they encounter. The history of dog bites is an additional crucial factor. Consult a professional for an evaluation if a dog has a serious bite history or a biting history that is getting worse and causing more injury. Review the dog bite scale by clicking here.

It’s common for people to express that they want their dog to be friendly toward other dogs and/or that they want them to learn how to play with other dogs without losing control or becoming aggressive. How can we prevent a dog from reacting to other dogs who are acting responsibly, respectfully, and not rudely? seems like a more logical position to take. To stop dogs from reacting to other dogs and, at the very least, tolerating appropriate, courteous dogs is a realistic and reasonable primary goal.

Acts of Aggression

When someone exhibits aggression (Reactively), it’s frequently to get closer to the target, but it can also just be out of excitement or irritation (over-arousal). Acts of aggression (intentional injury) are done to seize power, seize resources, defend oneself, protect others, or safeguard one’s status.

I would categorize the majority of terrified dogs I have come across as “reactive” and not “aggressive.” While most fear-based dogs tend to being reactive in order to achieve what they need—time and distance—I define aggressive behavior as having the intent to cause harm.

The following factors are frequently to blame for the behavior:

Outside of a territorial or protective context, aggression is the intention to damage.

Nervous reactivity/aggression (Fear)

This behavior arises for a variety of causes. From 5-8 weeks, behavior issues can frequently begin at the breeders (or wherever the puppies are raised), or the foundation for these issues can start at “puppy class before 16 weeks of age. Read “How to buy a puppy” to learn how breeders and early puppy raisers may influence this habit.

Lack of sufficient canine socialization before the age of 16 weeks, during the crucial primary socialization stage, is a common way that this behavior arises. Giving a puppy the chance to play with other puppies or dogs is a necessary component of a comprehensive socialization program, but it is not sufficient. Visit the socialization page to learn more about puppy classes and early socialization. It can be difficult to socialize a puppy before 16 weeks because this is when they are most prone to illness. As long as necessary measures are taken, more veterinarians nowadays are advising early socialization for puppies. According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), “such socialization for puppies should be the standard of care before they are fully immunized.” (Socialization) It’s unfortunate that there are still doctors who advise pet owners to isolate their puppies until they have had their full course of vaccines.

At the breeders or in their new home, a puppy can pick up reactive behavior from its mother or other dogs. In the first few weeks of life, a puppy can learn to be afraid of other dogs and how to be reactive if they watch their mother or another dog acting aggressively against other dogs. This is because they received an early example of the behavior.

If the puppy has been mauled by an adult dog, it is another scenario where this behavior might emerge. We may have created the conditions for fear and aggressiveness to arise since timid dogs are more likely to be bullied when they are socialized in dog parks. Targeting timid, afraid, or easily overwhelmed dogs is a common tactic used by overly assertive, pushy, impolite, or plain disorderly canines. The puppy decides whether anything is an attack or bullying behavior. It can be outright hostility against the puppy, physical play that is improper, or being bowled over for a timid puppy. This can cause the puppy to react aggressively toward dogs that are similar to the ones that attacked them, or it might make the puppy feel uneasy and agitated there. (such as a parking lot, building, car exit, enclosed space, veterinary office, etc.) Anxiety and dread of all things or all dogs might develop in a puppy as a result of repeated stressful incidents.

I believe that fear cannot be the root of a dog’s reactivity or hostility if the dog will run more than 50 feet to approach a dog that is not on its property.

Avoid attempting to “socialize” a young reactive or fearful dog if you don’t have a strategy in place. Regardless of how well-intentioned the other dog is, your dog shouldn’t be around other dogs that are pulling at the leash or running loose in an attempt to approach your dog.

For many nervous dogs, group dog training classes should be avoided. Consider things from your dog’s point of view. Without your permission, they are dragged into a pack of other dogs, some of which are impolite, others are barking, and still others are pulling on the leash to get to them. They are restrained by a leash, making it impossible for them to flee. After the first few classes, the receptive behavior could become more severe. Within a short length of time, the dog discovers that while constrained on a leash, aggressive behavior typically results in the dog’s desired outcome, which is separation from other canines. When they have an outburst, the owner of the other dog usually pulls him or her away, and the other dog’s owner usually pulls the other dog and them farther apart. A desirable outcome-producing behavior will be carried out again.


Dogs who are reactive are frequently motivated by excitement (high arousal), which can cause frustration. Because dogs were never taught how to behave decently around other dogs, people have frequently unwittingly produced this behavior. Dogs that pull, struggle, or bark when on a leash to approach another dog “just to say hey” should not visit a dog park to play with other dogs or approach another dog while doing so. In a class setting, this can also be developed with a young dog. Many courses enjoy conducting a meet & greet with leashed pets. The identical issue might result from this. The dog might have understood that when other dogs are out in public, it is acceptable to actively seek them out. Each time they attend a lesson, they are taught how to approach another dog while on a leash. However, when we take them outside at home, they may encounter other dogs and feel upset if they are not allowed to go say hello or play with them. Dogs meeting other dogs while on a leash are now discouraged by many trainers. When we put a dog on a leash, it is much easier to incite frustration in them if their prior interactions with other dogs have included struggling to get to them to “say hey” or exuberant over-arousal play. Numerous dogs in daycare/boarding facilities, dog parks, etc., may have this issue. Too often, dogs are taught to approach other dogs to play or greet them when they see them. Habits are formed by patterns, which might result in undesirable conduct. When appropriate, see “dog introductions below” for how to welcome a dog on a leash.

For dogs who are easygoing, courteous, and have the necessary canine social skills, dog parks or well-run daycare facilities may be suitable; however, this necessitates that all the dogs meet the same criteria. When dogs attend dog parks or daycare on the same days and at the same hours, they might create their own park culture. While the group of these dogs can be effectively socialized, a new dog entering the dog park may be perceived as an outsider, which can lead to conflict.


Some canines have been bred by humans to be naturally more aggressive. Around 9 to 10 months old, guarding breeds frequently begin barking at anybody passing by their home. Territorial acts are distinct from frightened aggression. Understanding the different breed types and making sure that our training is set up to regulate those instincts and behaviors can help us control this behavior. It’s crucial to control your fear because dogs can be both territorial and fearful animals. Dog behavior that is purely territorial (as opposed to fear, over-arousal, etc.) can reveal information about how well the dog gets along with its owners or the people who live with them. The dog needs to understand that their responsibility is to the humans, not to the humans and the area. A dog who is aware of their obligation to humans does not think that their surroundings provide them the freedom to behave however they like. Dogs should accept the people and other dogs we choose to be with and not feel responsible to us or for us. It probably goes without saying, but when you are among somebody your dog does not trust, you need to act composed and in control (not worried). To be deemed in charge of the territory, you only need to take the initiative and develop an authoritarian connection. Dominance: Leaders & Alphas

Why does my dog respond so strongly to other dogs?

Reactivity: Aggression and reactivity are sometimes mistaken. Reactive dogs overreact to specific stimuli or circumstances. Reactivity can be brought on by genetics, a lack of socialization, a lack of self-control training, an upsetting experience, or a combination of these factors, with fear frequently acting as the catalyst.

Reactive dogs have specific triggers, such as circumstances where the dog feels restrained on a leash, individuals wearing hats or beards, or young children. The best thing you can do is give a reactive dog room if he approaches you. Do not try to greet him by approaching. Working with a trainer to try behavior modification methods that will address the source will help prevent the escalation of aggressiveness if you have a reactive dog.

Fight or Flight: The most frequent catalyst for aggressiveness is fear. Normally, a dog would prefer to flee from whatever is troubling him when he is terrified or feels threatened. When a dog is cornered or confined and unable to escape, he may engage in combat to defend himself. Only their body language may serve as a warning when a dog is fearful. Bites are often fast snaps that can happen when the victim is walking away and turning his back.

If people knew that a dog might interpret their conduct, even when we believe it to be friendly, as dangerous, there would be fewer bites. For instance, a dog can feel frightened if we lean over and reach out to pet the top of his head. Lack of socializing is another major factor in canine phobias. A dog is less likely to be scared if it has favorable early experiences with many types of people, sounds, and environments. It will also be helpful to teach a dog to unwind when being handled.

Resource Protection

Dogs have a tendency to guard items they feel are valuable. Toys, food, bones, sleeping quarters, and even humans can be among these goods. This propensity arises from the fact that dogs are descended from wild predecessors that had to guard their resources in order to survive.

It is possible to stop this habit by teaching your dog commands like “leave it,” “out,” and “put or “off.” Another effective strategy for dealing with resource guarding is to trade with your dog, offering him the item he is guarding in exchange for a reward, or to step away from the dog’s bowl while it is being fed and drop a treat inside.

Reactive Leash

Leash-reactive dogs often growl, bark, or lunge in the direction of things that frighten or frighten them. These triggers can be particular, such as children, men, people wearing hats, or male/female dogs, and they can be other dogs or people. Dogs who exhibit these actions are attempting to avoid a fight by removing the threat or putting more space between themselves and it.

Can you treat a hyperactive dog?

Any breed of dog can become reactive, although guard dogs or high-strung herding types tend to exhibit it more frequently.

Australian Shepherds, Heelers, German Shepherds, and crosses of those breeds are the canine breeds where reactivity is most prevalent.

Any age dog can begin training to reduce reactivity. It is important to keep in mind that retraining a dog will take longer the longer a behavior has been engrained.

It is impossible to foresee whether the dog will be “cured” in the sense of being entirely fine around his triggers. But with the correct training method, all dogs can significantly improve.

She began by only teaching her own Border Collies, then gradually added local workshops and seminars. Today, she travels to Europe to instruct students from all over the world on how to train their dogs in a fun, positive, game-based manner.

She is renowned for her straightforward, step-by-step instruction that enables both novice and experienced dog trainers to see tangible results very fast.

Why does my dog bark at other dogs when we’re out walking?

The most frequent dog behavior issue for which we are called upon is leash reactivity.

If your dog ever barked or lunged at you while you were out for a walk, you would be well aware of the extreme frustration this behavior can bring.

We’ve developed a thorough manual for determining the following because we’ve discovered leash reactivity to be an epidemic issue that’s frequently misdiagnosed and misunderstood:

  • Whether or not your dog is reactive when on a leash
  • Identifying the reasons of leash reactivity
  • presenting a plan for fixing the issue

Determining If You Have a Leash Reactive Dog

It’s critical to realize that sensitivity isn’t always a sign of violence. Reactivity is fundamentally defined as “responsiveness to stimulation.”

For those of us holding the other end of the leash, your dog’s “responsiveness” is less than ideal.

If: Your dog is likely a leash-reactive dog;

  • While on a leash, your dog whines or barks at other dogs, people, cars, etc.
  • Your dog lunges or pulls aggressively on the leash in response to stimuli.
  • Your dog bites, nips, or shakes to divert attention to the leash or to you.
  • Similar actions are taken by your dog when he is enclosed by a window, fence, or gate.

Determining the Cause of Your Dog’s Leash Reactivity

  • Frustration. When they are young, we encourage our puppies to say hello to everyone they see on the street. For the majority of sociable and friendly dogs, this is tremendously reinforcing. When we stop saying hello to them as they get older, your dog develops unmet expectations and you end up with a disappointed, agitated dog who is desperate to say hello. These reactive canines would eagerly welcome the person or other dog if given the chance, even though their greeting might not be exactly polite.

Usually very sociable, these dogs get along well with people and other dogs off-leash.

  • Fear or uncertainty Our timid, insecure pets are the antithesis of irritated dogs. These canines could have experienced a traumatic dog encounter or had poor socialization. Usually, this terrifying sensation entails being unable to flee.

A leash prevents your dog from choosing to “fly,” which most dogs will gladly do when given the chance. Therefore, when an off-leash dog bites your on-leash dog, it may prompt an immediate impulse to use frightening body language, such as lunging and barking, to stop other dogs from doing the same. When encountering other dogs off-leash, these dogs are often wary or on guard, however they may gradually become friendly.

  • the desire to look for confrontation There are highly confident canines with a “let me at ’em” attitude toward other dogs that is not based in fear or insecurity, albeit cases like this are quite uncommon. They may nip or even bite to refocus attention to their leash or their owner. We advise seeking quick professional advice in order to guarantee the safety of both you and your dog because these dogs typically start fighting the instant they encounter another dog, leashed or not.

Preventing Leash Reactivity

Preventative care is simpler than curative care, as with most tough things in life. Here are some suggestions for reducing your dog or puppy’s reactivity on the leash:

  • Never allow your dog interact with other dogs when it is on a leash. Trust us
  • When meeting new people with a leash, make sure your dog sits next to you and use food rewards to praise good behavior. Your dog should find you more fascinating than anything else!
  • Don’t use retractable leashes.
  • Having a dog walk several feet in front of you does no good.
  • Avoid using corrective collars; many of the dogs we work with become reactive when they are corrected in the presence of other dogs, creating a bad relationship with them.

Stopping Leash Reactivity

You must deal with the root reason if you want to permanently stop leash reactivity. It is at most a bandaid to punish away the symptoms (lunging, barking, etc.). For an illustration in visual form, see the movie below!

Whatever the underlying cause of your dog’s reactivity, they need to acquire better coping mechanisms when faced with a trigger and the impulse control to employ those coping mechanisms rather than acting out in a reactive manner.

Your timing and technical proficiency are key in this, thus we advise working with a specialist. Through CCPDT, IAABC, and VSPDT, you can locate a highly qualified specialist in your neighborhood.

Understanding the Protocol We Recommend:

We prefer to train a reactive dog to become aware of a trigger and voluntarily turn to look at its handler. Engage, then without retaliation, disengage. Simply put, we are instructing your dog to respond in a more suitable manner!

  • You must first teach your dog a marker word before you can do this. Although a clicker is an option, we have found that verbal markers are more convenient and powerful.
  • We enjoy hearing “yes.”
  • We must first teach your dog that the word “yes” refers to them and denotes positive outcomes. Practice having a helper lift up a toy or other object close to your dog while it is on a leash. Say “Yes” and give your dog a treat as soon as they focus on the toy.
  • High-value foods like string cheese, hot dogs, or shredded chicken should be used as your incentive.
  • It’s time to apply this in the actual world once you feel confident with your timing.
  • Add distance when you sense a trigger coming. The trigger should be visible to you before your dog is. Remember that you probably require more space than you think!
  • Simply yell “yes!” to your dog when they do detect the trigger. Your dog should come back to you, and you will then praise them. No barking, lunging, or other defensive actions should ever occur.
  • You are just too close to the trigger if your dog ignores you or starts to bark or lunge. Extend your distance and try one more.
  • Your dog ought to be able to see the trigger and turn to face you on his own after doing this frequently enough. Then you will reward and mark “Yes.”
  • For a few weeks, we advise practicing this while still, then passing in motion.
  • Your dog will gradually require less and less space to reach their trigger, and many owners report that their dog’s reactivity has completely disappeared.

Need More Help?

We provide a thorough leash reactivity online training program that will guide you and your dog through our leash reactivity protocol and include coaching from one of our professional trainers. Open enrolment means that you can enroll at any time and proceed at your own speed through the course.